I grew up as a 70’s/80’s kid. I graduated high school in 1990. So the 80’s music heavily influenced me in my teen years. It was one where everyone was experimenting with mixing sounds and creating videos for the newly launched MTV. Music television all the time. I was a fan of it all, some of the genres I wasn’t certain how they differed, such as new wave/pop, mod/ Sqa or is it Sqaw? As some bands seem to fall in multiple categories. Anyway, I liked anything in those categories, as well as, Punk/post punk, alternative, classic rock/arena rock, hip hop/Rap/reggae. Everyone was mixing it up and having fun and I loved it all. I was an avid KROQ and POWER 106 listener, with KLOS and Pirate Radio rolled in, along with KIIS. (anyone growing up in Southern CA during this time would know those radio stations)
MTV was playing videos by Run-D-MC who had mixed it up and created their version of Aerosmith’s Walk This Way, featuring Steven Tyler screaming out “walk this way!” You had the Beastie Boys kind of falling in multiple genres. Then you had the synthesizer music.
According to Billy, he was intrigued with the various early sounds of synthesizer music, where he references Human League. (Known for their hit Don’t you want me…baby) and Roxy Music (known for a few hits, mainly ‘more than this’) and Art of Noise (known for Peter Gunn and Paranoimia with Max Headrom) – He aimed to incorporate different sounds than the typical punk sound. I believe Art of Noise would later be responsible for the intro to Eyes Without a Face. He references Iggy Pop, David Bowie, early influences to The Who. He used to hang out with one of my favorites Siouxsie Sioux, of Siouxsie and the Banshees. He almost joined her band. Of course, they were following the Sex Pistols and at that time The Police were getting their start.
With that said, Billy Idol successfully combined sounds to appeal to a variety of people and has been played on radio stations across the board from KROQ to KIIS and MTV played him continually. Loved by women and men alike, because he was HOT, cool, just had the IT factor for everyone.
If you grew up in the 80’s you couldn’t listen to radio without hearing Dancing with myself, or White Wedding or seeing the videos on T.V. His songs have remained on stations years later, and he has been casted in small roles, in the films The Wedding Singer and The Doors. My own children, recognize and sing along. You haven’t seen anything cuter than a 3-year-old with curls, singing to Dancing with myself “oh…oh…oh-oh”
In 2014, he played a very small venue, The Galaxy Theater, in Costa Mesa. (now called The Observatory) My husband got us tickets, and it was a blast! He’s still awesome. Before we went, I had my kids attempt to do his signature “sneer.”
His book explains the many risks taken, combined with tenacity, mixed in with some luck of constant exposure on MTV (due to early lack of artists videos, it was all new) and radio stations being willing to pair his music with other songs that wouldn’t make things too “far out” strange to the listeners…it all worked! BTW: His iconic platinum hair, was an accident.
It’s a shame he has such an addictive nature. He is very candid about his early drug usage, and how it spirals into full-blown addiction and the struggles, and the destruction of relationships (sex addiction/infidelity) and nearly killing himself with this damaging life style. Overdosing, crashes on motorcycle, etc.
It’s very interesting, especially if you grew up during this time when it was all happening and we were hearing it on the radio. He is very blunt and even apologizes to people, like Tom Petty, for some of his stupidity while being bombed at an event to benefit disabled children, that the kids were backstage and witnessed his drugged out mess.
If you like this time in music, it’s well worth the read as it discusses the start of Punk, and new wave, electronica music and his encounters with Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sex Pistols (PIL), The Clash, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Roxy Music, Human League, Art of Noise, The Ramones, Blondie, Joan Jett, and even the iconic band, KISS. Artists we’ve grown to love, his version of how he saw it…albeit often through a purple haze.